I recently learned of something which I thought worth passing on as a helpful guidance to us men in the sensitive area of sex, lust and sexual relationships.
Our society seems to be obsessed with sexuality and lust as we are continuously bombarded with sexual imagery in advertising, TV and films and even our popular music, which often conveys sexual desire with only a veneer of love. This presents, I would say, a confusing scenario especially when most Christians are seen as going along with it all and many churches are not offering a great deal of clarity as to how we should be reacting!
Jesus indicated the importance of the issue in the Sermon on the Mount when he said that a man just by looking at a woman with lust means he has already committed adultery! The word used for lust by Jesus was apparently ‘epithumia’ which can be translated to ‘intentionally objectifying another person for one’s own gratification’*. In other words he is drawing a distinction between sexual attraction (a normal response) and objectification; between sexual desire and ‘epithumia’. We are made as sexual beings and therefore will have sexual attractions but if we take a second ‘leering’ look and start fantasising a sexual encounter, we have crossed over the line to ‘epithumia’.
How do we respond appropriately therefore? A diagram which may help is as follows*. Imagine a triangle with one angle at the top. The two sides rising from the base represent two aspects of a sexual relationship: one the level of commitment and the other the level of intimacy. The base of the triangle represents a relationship with no physical intimacy and no commitment. As commitment increases (which will include respecting and valuing the person) then the more physical intimacy can be enjoyed! Where the two sides come together at the top this illustrates the highest act of physical intimacy – sexual intercourse – which can only be sustained by the highest level of commitment – marriage.
Sometimes ‘epithumia’ has to be overcome and exposing it as a false and short lived feeling of pleasure can be part of the answer. So remember guys, if this is you, and you are confronted with those attractive sexual images or encounters with the opposite sex, just think of the triangle and don’t take a second look……..unless of course the thought and possibility of commitment also immediately comes to mind.
(*Material taken from The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith)